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Uncle Vanya review – coronavirus gives Chekhov a shot in the arm | Film

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Here is an extraordinary, transfiguring leap from stage to screen. Ian Rickson’s production of Uncle Vanya was cut short by lockdown in the final weeks of its run. Now, in collaboration with director Ross MacGibbon, he has not merely captured his original staging but dazzlingly reinterpreted it. This is not, like the NTLive broadcasts, an attempt to transmit a theatrical event. It is a new thing. The film crackles with fresh intensity – and gains new shadows from the timing of its release.

Chekhov’s 1899 play is prefaced by shots of the cast arriving – dungarees and masks – at the Harold Pinter theatre for the first time since March: shaking out umbrellas, walking into an empty auditorium. As the action begins, something extraordinary happens. We are transplanted in time and place – there is nothing 21st-century British about Rae Smith’s lofty, crumbling design, the sodden glimmer of Bruno Poet’s lighting or old Nana with her long dark dress and bun, patiently waiting on everyone. Yet the stage is charged with the climate of Covid-19. That combination of sluggishness and highly tuned irritability, the feeling of time mysteriously slipping by, maliciously cheating people of their lives, is everywhere: in Toby Jones’s crosspatch, crumpled Vanya and Rosalind Eleazar’s Yelena, so heavy with disappointment she is scarcely able to move. The lassitude of Chekhov’s characters is sometimes spoken of as if it were a mental elegance: here, it is plainly toxic; everyone might be hung over after a too-long afternoon nap.

When I saw this on stage in February the use of direct address to the audience struck me as too blunt. Filmed close-ups banish this difficulty – it is as if we have a direct wire into the speakers’ brains. The strong original cast is enhanced by the addition of Roger Allam, effortlessly condescending as the pampered professor. In this sharp modern version by Conor McPherson, the environmental alarm of the play is more startling than ever. It is often said that an elderly play is nevertheless a play for today. This one truly is.

Susannah Clapp is the Observer’s theatre critic. Visit unclevanyaplay.com for cinema screenings


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Summer of 85 review – François Ozon’s bittersweet teen romance | Film

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This latest from François Ozon, director of such wildly diverse offerings as Sitcom, Under the Sand, 8 Women and The New Girlfriend is a bittersweet saga of love and death, a coming-of-age tale based on Aidan Chambers’s 1982 novel Dance on My Grave. Shifting the setting from Southend-on-Sea to Le Tréport in 1985, it centres on Alex (Félix Lefebvre), a death-obsessed teen in the throes of doomed first love, whose morbidly romantic story plays out with the sensual artfulness of classic Ozon, combined with the accessible vigour of an 80s American teen pic.

We first meet David (Benjamin Voisin) at sea, a beautiful vision riding the waves to rescue the hapless Alex after his little boat capsizes. David takes Alex home to his widowed mum, played with nervy energy by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who undresses and bathes the new arrival (“All David’s capsized friends go in the tub!”) and tells Alex that “my David needs a real friend”.

Yet with his flick-knife comb and razor-cut smile, David is clearly much more than a friend, taking Alex’s breath away as he weaves through oncoming traffic on his motorbike, chasing an elusive moment of speeding ecstasy that is always just out of reach, like the green light in The Great Gatsby.

All this thrilling young love unfolds in flashback, intercut with later scenes in which an apparently traumatised Alex faces questions about a terrible event for which he is being held accountable. Is Alex somehow responsible for the dreadful fate awaiting David? The only person able to reach Alex is Mr Lefèvre (Melvil Poupaud), the caring but slightly creepy teacher who tells him to try to write about what happened, seemingly prompting the self-questioning memoir narrative.

Ozon first read Chambers’s novel as a teenager and his adaptation blends the prickly joy of that first encounter with the stylistic confidence of a film-maker revisiting an old flame. Gorgeously shot on super-16 by cinematographer Hichame Alaouie, this has the tangible texture of its retro setting, filtered through a nostalgic lens that seems to supersaturate the image, amplifying emotions.

Pop music plays a key role, with the Cure’s In Between Days bookending jukebox selections that trip from the melancholia of Bananarama’s Cruel Summer to the jump-around sounds of Movie Music’s Stars De La Pub. In one key scene, recalling a memorable moment from the 1980 film La boum, Alex finds himself in a nightclub, swaying slowly to the headphone sounds of Rod Stewart’s Sailing while those around him (including David) cavort to more frenetic disco beats. But whereas in La boum, Richard Sanderson’s Reality created a momentary bubble of intimacy for Sophie Marceau and Alexandre Sterling’s characters, here Alex is alone is his reverie, highlighting not only the differing paths that he and David are on, but also the sense that this “friend of my dreams” may be just that – an invention, a projection, reminding us that we do indeed live as we dream, alone.

Watch a trailer for Summer of 85.

Well-observed background details add weight to the story, from David’s Jewish heritage and suppressed bereavement about his father to the subtly sympathetic figures of Alex’s parents, who seem to understand more than he imagines. There’s also a strong thread of black comedy, not least in a cross-dressing sequence that somehow manages to intertwine agonising anguish with near-slapstick absurdity – just one example of the tonal balancing act that Ozon so deftly maintains.


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Are These Movie Guys Hotter Than The Actors Who Play Them?

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Here’s the deal: Below are 15 objectively very attractive men. It’s your job to determine if you think the iconic characters they play are even hotter than the actual actor. We’re not just talking about looks here, either. Take a moment to really think about these guys’ character traits, mannerisms, and overall vibes too.


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Haunting Of Bly Manor Behind-The-Scenes Photos

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This post is basically me saying “Riddikulus” to the dementor that is Haunting of Bly Manor.

The Haunting of Bly Manor came out a couple weeks ago…and honestly, I have not been the same since.


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It’s wonderful and heartbreaking, but mostly TERRIFYINGLY CREEPY.

I’m a HUGE scaredy cat (but I loved Hill House, so I just HAD to watch this one!), so this show honestly gave me nightmares.

But it’s important to remember this is just a (albeit VERY well-acted) TV show. To prove it, here are 21 behind-the-scenes photos of the cast goofing around and having a great time!

1.

This photo of Amelia Eve (who plays Jamie) and Rahul Kohli (who plays Owen) reminding us that they’re just REALLY good actors:

2.

This hilarious video of T’Nia Miller (who plays Hannah) dancing and singing “Don’t Cha” while wearing corpse makeup.

3.

These photos of Amelia, Rahul, T’Nia, and Tahirah Sharif (who plays Rebecca) having the best time in the kitchen:

4.

And this photo of the same crew either filming or partying it up — I can’t tell, but they look happy:

5.

These super-cute photos of Benjamin Evan Ainsworth (who plays Miles) and Amelie Bea Smith (who plays Flora) actually looking happy for once:

6.

I think they might be BFFs:

7.

Like, seriously! They seem to do everything together:

8.

This playful photo of Rahul and the Lady of the Lake (played by Daniela Dib) that takes away a bit of the creepiness of the ghosts:

9.

And this photo Amelia posted of her in a ghost mask doing a dance:

10.

These photos from Rebecca’s final day, including her descent into the lake:

11.

These photos of the gang doing an escape room together:

12.

And these photos of them celebrating the holidays:

13.

These photos of Benjamin and Amelie with Victoria Pedretti (who plays Dani), showing there’s no hard feelings:

14.

These adorable Polaroids, which proves that Jamie and Dani got that drink after all:

15.

These behind-the-scenes photos that remind us that these are just ACTORS on a SET and not real people in a haunted house:

16.

This super-cute photo of Amelia, Victoria, and Rahul cuddled up together, proving they’re just as close as their onscreen characters:

17.

These photos of T’Nia, Amelia, and Benjamin that prove the set was far from dark and bleak:

18.

And this absolutely splendid photo of Amelie outside her dressing room!

19.

This wonderful video of T’Nia and Victoria singing and dancing to “Come on Eileen” on a party bus:

20.

This selfie of Rahul and Benjamin, two of the breakout stars:

21.

And finally, this dazzling photo of Carla Gugino with her gorgeous hair for the role:

See — not so scary now, right? Here’s hoping this will help me sleep tonight.

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